June 2017

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A Desire to Effect a Reformation

J.J. JanewayThe Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

When the new year of 1800 opened, the Rev. J. J. Janeway was found on its threshold with a strong desire to “effect a reformation” in his heart and life. He wrote in his diary, “On examination, it is found that early rising, fervency in devotion, religious reflections in company, humility, courage, disinterested benevolence, and much engagedness are particularly worthy my attention in this reformation. May God enable me to reform. Amen.”

It was not a short-lived expectation or goal for Rev. Janeway. He persisted. On June 26th of that same year, he wrote in his diary:

“This day I spent in fasting and prayer for the blessing of Almighty God on my ministry. I have read the Scriptures; meditated and prayed. Confession of sins has been made. I have entreated God to bestow on me courage, wisdom, prudence, ardent piety, circumspection, a feeling sense of the importance of divine truth, compassion for the souls of men. I have prayed that I may propose divine truth with clearness, illustrate it with wisdom, and urge it with affection and energy; that I may be furnished for my work abundantly; that I may be a wise, faithful, able and successful minister of the Lord Jesus.”

Words to Live By:
An able, effective, and pointed prayer for any pastor. And in a similar way, for any and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. May each of us press closer to know the Lord, to seek His face, to draw near to Him day by day. Read the Scriptures. Dwell upon their meaning and pray. Confess your sins and ask God to give you what is needed for this day, to live to His glory.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 15. — What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

A. — The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.

Scripture References: Gen. 3:6. II Cor. 11:3. Ps.49:12.

Questions:

1. Why did God forbid our first parents to eat this fruit?

He forbade them because He was making a test of their obedience. It was not that the fruit had in itself any evil. It was God’s method of seeing whether or not they recognized His Lordship over them.

2. Were our first parents guilty of sin before they tasted of the fruit?

Yes, they were guilty of listening to the devil. But when they tasted o of the fruit they completed the act of sin.

3. Where was the first sin committed?

The first sin was committed in Paradise where God had placed man and created woman.

4. Was Adam deceived in this first sin?

The Bible tells us that he was not deceived. Probably his love for Eve motivated him to join her in this transgression. But he suffered the consequence of this sin just the same and betrayed the whole human race whose representative he was.

5. What was involved in the eating of the forbidden fruit?

There were many sins involved in this act of disobedience. By eating they rebelled against their Sovereign God. By eating they were guilty of treason as they were in league with the devil. By eating they were gratifying ambition, to be as God. By eating they were guilty of unbelief because God had said it was wrong. By eating they were bringing death upon themselves and all their posterity.

6. If one word had to be used in describing this first sin, what word would be best?

Probably the word “pride” would come closer to describing it than any other one word. Calvin states, “Augustine is more correct, who says that pride was the beginning of all evils, and that by pride the human race was ruined …”

THE SECOND LOOK

One often wonders how much time Adam spent in meditation and prayer in the Garden when he was offered the forbidden fruit by his wife. He knew that it was forbidden. He -knew the rule of obedience set up in the Garden. He had everything he wanted. And yet he disobeyed the command of his God and accepted the fruit as offered to him. One wonders whether or not Adam took a second look, whether or not he did much thinking about the step he was a:bout to take.

A great lesson to be learned by God’s children today from the trial in the Garden of Eden is the lesson of thinking twice, of praying twice, before taking important steps. God’s children always need to learn the lesson of resistance, the resistance of the first temptation to sin In the heart. The hymn writer put it this way: “I want a principle within of watchful, godly fear. The sensibility of sin, the pain to feel it near.” Yet so often God’s children move into the realm of sin without giving it a second thought, without thinking the matter through, without praying to the Lord for help and guidance. Many times a second look would save them from sinning against God and thereby sinning against themselves and others.

Wordsworth has a few lines in one of his poems that has a great lesson in it which Christians might apply to the matter of temptation. “Look for the stars. You will say there are none; look up a second time, and one by one, you mark them twinkling out with silvery light, and wonder how they could elude the sight!”

Many times we wonder why we did not take that second look, why we could not see the evil surrounding the thought, the action, the word when we first saw it and it seemed good to our eyes. How can we be sure we take a second look? Only by recognizing that we are kept by the power of God and that power will be operative in us if we keep living close to Him and keep His commandments. We can not, we dare not, trust ourselves but only in Him. We must stay close to Him through the study of the Word, through prayer, through service to Him, all to His glory. May God help us ever to take the second look before we leap. (2 Tim. 3:13-17)

His Epitaph was “An Honest Man”

He was the fifty-fifth delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence, even though he signed the historic document  three months after July 4, 1776.  He was a Presbyterian, and a faithful member of the Presbyterian Church of Londonderry, New Hampshire.  He was in local, state, and Federal governments, serving his fellow citizens.  But beyond all these kudos, it was said that he was “consistent and zealous Christian.”  He was Matthew Thornton.

Born in Ireland of Scottish ancestry, from the northern Ireland Protestant section of that country, Matthew Thornton was brought to this country by his parents at the age of three.  Settling in what later on became Maine, God’s providence preserved them from hostile Indian attacks.  Once, his parents and Matthew had to flee a burning cabin to save their lives.  They all moved to Worcester, Massachusetts.  Later they moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1740, where Matthew would live for the next four decades.

Studying medicine there, Matthew Thornton became a successful physician.  Even through this, he served his country, accompanying New Hampshire militia as they fought the French.  In other regiments, death came heavily through fighting and disease, but in Dr. Thornton’s regiment, only six soldiers lost their life in the campaign, due to the skill of this man.

With the rise of the American Independence movement, he entered politics, but not in a way so as to divorce his biblical background.  He would serve in local and state government, as justice of the peace, chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and a member of the Second,  Third,  Fourth and Fifth Provincial Congress.  In fact, he was the President of the last Provincial Congress.

Elected next to the Continental Congress, he went to Philadelphia where on November 4, 1776,  he signed the Declaration of Independence.  He served his one year but refused a second year in the national body.

As a Christian, it has been said that “no man was more deeply impressed with a belief in the existence and bounties of an overruling Providence” than Matthew Thornton.  He used Providence as a synonym of God here, as many of our forefathers did.

Married to Hannah Jack, the union produced five children.  He died on June 24, 1803.  Upon his grave stone is the epitaph, “An Honest Man.”

Words to Live By: As the country approached war with England, Thomas Thornton wrote a letter to all the citizens of New Hampshire, telling them that they needed to come together as Christians and rest upon their faith.   The separation of church from state did not mean separation of the state from the God of the Bible.  We must be diligent to interpret that familiar expression in the right sense of which it was understood by our forefathers.

The Rebel’s High Priest

On this day of June 23, 1780, an American Revolutionary Battle took place in Springfield, New Jersey.  Ordinarily we might think that this has no place in a historical devotional, but it does, because of the presence of the Rev. James Caldwell, pastor of the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church.

Rev Caldwell was known as “the Rebel’s High Priest.”  His congregation in present day Elizabeth, New Jersey, had provided forty line officers to the American Continental army.  And Caldwell himself was the chaplain of  Col. Elias Dayton’s Regiment in George Washington’s army.

This military campaign by the British and their German Hessian compatriots was a major push into New Jersey.  They had a total of 6000 men.  George Washington’s army, faced with diminishing supplies and desertions of men,  had only about 3500, and not all of them  at Springfield, New Jersey.  So they were outnumbered 5 to 1 in their battles.

At the key point outside of Springfield, N.J., the American troops were out of wadding, the paper necessary to fire their muskets accurately.  All along the line, there came cries of “Wadding!  Give us wadding.”  Rev. Caldwell was then riding  up on his horse to encourage his men when he heard the cry for wadding.  Riding back to the Springfield Presbyterian church and manse, he gathered the psalm hymn books, and threw them to the men.  Referring to English hymn writer Isaac Watts, he called out “Give ’em Watts, boys, give ’em Watts boys.”

That line of “given them Watts, boys” has become the symbol of the forgotten battle of Springfield.  The British eventually retreated from the battlefield, making the battle of Springfield an American victory.  British troops never again entered New Jersey, with this battle being the last one up north in the Colonies.

Words to Live By:
Rev. Caldwell would be killed a little over a year later, just as his wife had been killed at this battle.   The sacrifices of all our American Revolutionary forefathers involved much sacrifice.  The question naturally arises, what are we willing to give up for the sake of the victory of the gospel over the enemies of the faith?

Unwavering Devotion to Christ and Country
by David T. Myers

Here and there in these posts, you have read about Presbyterian clergy who were instrumental in preparing and molding the popular minds of Americans for the great struggle of the American Revolution. From both pulpit and battle field worship service, these Presbyterian chaplains challenged the troops to fight for their freedom and win the day. The British were certainly aware of the tremendous influences of these clergy toward that end and viewed it with alarm that it was thrown into the side of the rebellion. Among the many pastors of all denominations who joined the ranks were Presbyterians such as the Reverend Hezekiah James Balch, who is our character study today.

Born in 1741 in Deer Creek, Hartford County, Maryland to Col. James Balch and Anne Goodwin, there is little known about his early years. The whole family moved south to Mecklenburg, North Carolina when he was young. At some time in his teens, due to a recommendation from a minister who must have seen certain spiritual gifts in the young man, he entered the College of New Jersey, later Princeton, graduating from there in 1766.

In the historical accounts, there is much confusion as to his work due to two other Balch members in the extended family, one his brother. Even the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has him laboring for the Lord and eventually dying in Tennessee, albeit serving as a Presbyterian pastor and educator. All this is wrong.

After graduating from Princeton, he was licensed to preach the gospel and sent him to various fields as a missionary in Virginia and North Carolina in 1768. A year later, on June 22, 1769, he was called to the Presbyterian Churches of Rocky River and Poplar Tent, North Carolina as pastor, after being ordained to the gospel ministry.

An interesting event happened before that call however. He was reproved by the Presbytery because a Church of England minister had married him. They called it a “reprehensible circumstance.” Obviously, the memory of the Church of England and the Presbyterian experience in the old country was not forgotten by this Presbytery. It didn’t seem to have an effect upon his installation of the two charge congregation where he labored until his death in 1776.

What may have had an influence upon the Presbytery was his participation in what is known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. A full year before the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, PA, Rev. Balch was one of the Committee of Three who wrote up its resolves declaring independence from England. While modern revisionist history has doubted the existence of this declaration (and we will not go into that history now), it is is celebrated even now in North Carolina with Rev Hezekiah James Balch being remembered as one of the key players in its formation.

Words to Live By:
God calls His people to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world in many spheres of life. Whether in the church and/or the state, we are called to be faithful to the cause of the gospel. Our featured character today, the Rev. Hezekiah James Balch let his light shine in the establishment of both church and state in his beloved North Carolina home and ministry. We as American Christians are to be active in both spheres, good Christian citizens in our land, and faithful Christians soldiers in the church of Jesus Christ.

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